Indians defeat Royals, claim AL Central crown
CLEVELAND — The day after their 22-game winning streak was snapped, the Cleveland Indians tried to start another one as well as became division champions.
Francisco Lindor had three hits and Edwin Encarnacion homered and had two RBIs as the Indians beat the Kansas City Royals 8-4 on Saturday at Progressive Field.
“We had good energy. I was happy about that. It’s nice to see them go right back out there and try to be as good a team as we can be,” said Indians manager Terry Francona.
“They outplayed us yesterday, but that’s in the past. Today was another day,” Lindor said.
Carlos Carrasco (16-6) pitched into the seventh inning to get the win. Carrasco joins Corey Kluber (16-4) and Trevor Bauer (16-9) in giving Cleveland three pitchers with 16 or more wins for the first time in 61 years.
Cleveland clinched its second consecutive American League Central Division title when Minnesota loses to Toronto later Saturday.
Jason Hammel (8-12) gave up seven runs (six earned) and 11 hits in six innings in taking the loss.
The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a sacrifice fly by Abraham Almonte. The lead didn’t last very long, however, as Alex Gordon homered in the top of the third for a 1-1 tie.
Cleveland sent seven men to the plate in the third inning and two of them scored, on an RBI single by Carlos Santana and a sacrifice fly by Encarnacion, giving Cleveland a 3-1 lead.
Kansas City got a run back in the fourth, which began with a double down the right-field line by Melky Cabrera, a career .333 hitter against Carrasco. A wild pitch by Carrasco allowed Cabrera to move to third and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Brandon Moss to cut the Cleveland lead to 3-2.
The Indians blew it open with a four-run sixth inning. Yandy Diaz and Almonte led off with singles, putting runners at first and second. Hammel retired the next two batters, but Lindor bounced an opposite-field double off the left field wall, driving in both runners to make it 6-2.
“Hammel tried to get a fastball in, but he didn’t get it in enough,” said Royals manager Ned Yost.
“The pitch was middle, away. So I’m doing what the pitcher tells me to do (by his pitches),” Lindor said.
It’s the 10th consecutive game in which Lindor has had an extra-base hit, a team record. Since Aug. 24, Lindor is hitting .383, with six doubles, two triples, nine home runs and 22 RBI.
“He’s got a ton of tools, he’s a hard worker, and he’s a smart kid,” Francona said. “He’s one of the better players around, because there are so many ways he can impact the game.”
Austin Jackson then singled and Lindor slid home ahead of the throw from center fielder Lorenzo Cain. Jackson attempted to advance to second on the throw home, and catcher Drew Butera threw wildly to second for an error. The ball rolled back into the outfield to Cain, allowing Jackson to complete his tour of the bases, scoring the run that extended the lead to 7-2.
“When you’re aggressive on the bases sometimes you can run the other team into a mistake,” Francona said.
In the top of the seventh, Butera and Whit Merrifield had consecutive two-out, two-strike RBI hits to cut the margin to 7-4 before reliever Andrew Miller relieved Carrasco and got the third out.
In 6 2/3 innings Carrasco was charged with four runs on eight hits, with five strikeouts and two walks.
“We had some pretty good swings against him, but his splitter is the great equalizer,” Yost said.
Encarnacion’s home run came leading off the seventh inning against reliever Kevin McCarthy.
NOTES: Indians 2B Jose Ramirez did not play Saturday and may not play Sunday due to a sore hamstring. ... Indians OF Brandon Guyer is sidelined with an aggravated right wrist. He is expected to be unavailable for five to seven days, and won’t accompany the Indians on their six-game trip to Anaheim and Seattle that begins Tuesday... . Indians 2B Jason Kipnis will be activated off the disabled list and will make his debut in center field on Sunday. Kipnis, a center fielder in college at Arizona State, is being given a trial as a replacement for OF Bradley Zimmer, who is out for the year with a broken right hand... . LHP Danny Duffy will be activated off the disabled list and will start Sunday for the Royals. Duffy has been on the DL for three weeks with a left elbow impingement... Royals 1B Eric Hosmer has 180 hits, eight shy of his career high of 188, set in 2013.